Paying top dollar for feature-rich and highly efficient heating and cooling equipment won’t make your HVAC system last forever. All air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps have finite lifespans. As such, when problems rear their heads, it’s important to know when to fix them and when to start over. Following are eight ways to know whether the HVAC system in your Playa Vista, CA, home needs repairs or replacement service.
1. The Age of Your Heating and Cooling Equipment
Most heaters and air conditioners are expected to last 15 to 20 years from the date of their installation. Heat pumps have a slightly shorter lifespan. If well-maintained, many of these units will provide up to 15 years of reliable service. However, it’s important to note that unlike heaters and air conditioners, heat pumps often pull double duty. When used for year-round heating and cooling, these units rarely get a break. Thus, if you have a heat pump in your home but only use it for heating in a supplementary fashion, it may last up to 20 years or even longer.
Age plays the greatest role in determining the right time for HVAC replacement. When problems arise and HVAC equipment is already nearing the end of its lifespan, replacing units rather than fixing them is often the most cost-effective solution. Moreover, heaters, heat pumps, and air conditioners don’t become more efficient over time. In fact, the HVAC equipment in your home will have lost as much as half of its efficiency after just 10 years of service. Paying to repair an older unit will cost you more in the long run. Given its advanced age, even a newly repaired heater or air conditioner will have higher than average operating costs.
2. The Age of Your HVAC Air Ducts Matters Too
When planning for HVAC replacements, it’s easy to overlook your HVAC air ducts. However, your ductwork has a major hand in determining just how efficient your heater and air conditioner are. In general, quality ductwork lasts between 10 and 15 years. Given that nearly all HVAC components will reach the end of their lifespans at roughly the same time, when your ductwork is ready for replacement, your furnace and air conditioner should be replaced as well. This remains true even when furnaces and air conditioners are working just fine. Replacing everything at once will allow your HVAC installer to streamline your new ductwork to perfectly suit your new equipment. When you consider that older and still-functioning heaters and air conditioners are far less efficient than they once were, scheduling a multi-pronged HVAC replacement project will provide the greatest cost benefits overall.
3. Your Cumulative Repair Costs and the Frequency of Repair Issues
Take a minute to add up your total air conditioner or heater repair costs. Consider all of the repair fees that you’ve paid within the last three to five years. You may be surprised to discover that your total spending is actually quite close to the cost of a new unit. As HVAC equipment sustains additional wear and advances in age, the frequency of repair issues and the cost of essential repairs will increase as well. Some HVAC professionals recommend multiplying the cost of your next repair estimate by the age of your furnace or AC. If the resulting amount is higher than $5,000, you should replace the unit rather than repair it.
4. Rising Energy Bills
Age-related decreases in efficiency will invariably have an impact on your home energy bills. Worse still, apart from replacing aging units, there’s absolutely nothing that you can do about it. Regularly changing HVAC air filters and performing other essential maintenance will provide reasonable benefits, but these efforts won’t reverse the wear that’s impacting the system’s overall performance. Trapped build-ups of dust and other debris, aging components, and worn connections make it increasingly harder for heaters and air conditioners to do their jobs efficiently.
5. Changes in Industry Standards
Fixing an older air conditioner or heater could become extremely costly. For instance, if you have an old AC that still uses Freon or R-22 refrigerant, you’ll pay a veritable fortune for refrigerant recharge service. Freon has been completely phased out as a residential AC refrigerant throughout the United States. Moreover, both the importation and the domestic production of this coolant have been outlawed as well. With limited supplies available and a fair amount of consumer demand, those who have Freon available are charging far higher than normal prices for it.
Similar issues will eventually exist for homeowners with air conditioners that use Freon’s replacement: R-401a or Puron. Much like Freon, Puron has been recently phased out in favor of single-ingredient refrigerants that don’t have any measurable impact on the earth’s ozone layer.
Changes in industry standards like these and new efficiency regulations are also important to pay attention to when assessing the age and long-term viability of your heater. Many cities and states throughout the nation have already permanently banned the use of gas-fired appliances in order to reach their ambitious zero-emissions goals. If you own a gas-fired furnace or water heater, it will eventually be difficult to find HVAC technicians who are skilled and capable of servicing this unit. As gas-fired appliances become evermore rare, the training that’s needed for servicing them will become rare as well.
6. Noisy Operation
If your heater or air conditioner is more than 10 years old, it’s probably difficult to remember a time when it offered whisper-quiet operation. Loud, aging appliances are easy to ignore when they’ve already become a regular and expected part of your everyday background noise.
Imagine what it would be like to fall asleep with your heater or air conditioner on without fear of being jolted awake by the next banging, clanging, or popping sound that it makes. Older heaters and air conditioners that have lots of wear and tear make loud sounds when they cycle off and on, and some of these units are simply noisy all of the time.
7. Foul Smells During Heater or AC Operation
Some HVAC odors can be attributed to dirty ductwork, in-duct pest infestations, and poor general maintenance. However, heaters and air conditioners that are smelly all of the time may be victims of normal aging. Although HVAC technicians thoroughly clean these units during annual tune-up service, surprising quantities of trapped debris in hard-to-reach areas could leave your home smelling like dirty gym socks, burnt dust, or mildew. Build-ups of algae and other blockages in AC condensate drain pans and drain lines can cause unpleasant odors too. Rather than fixing an older and perpetually smelly unit, replace it instead. With fresher, cleaner indoor air, you’ll enjoy your living environment more, and you’ll feel more confident when entertaining.
8. Hot and Cold Spots Throughout the Building
Unless they’ve been professionally zoned for efficiency, central HVAC systems should heat and cool homes uniformly. When your air conditioner or heater is on, every area of your home should have roughly the same temperature. If you have rooms or hallways that are exceedingly hot or cold, this means that your HVAC equipment is underperforming.
Having hot and cold spots could mean that you have a closed or obstructed HVAC air vent or that leaking ductwork is depositing conditioned air behind your drywall. In the event of an older heater or air conditioner, it can also mean that this unit is no longer capable of servicing the entire building evenly.
Belle Air Services proudly serves residents of Playa Vista and the Greater Los Angeles Metro area. We offer heating, cooling, and indoor air quality services. You can also count on our experienced technicians for ductless HVAC systems and heat pump service. To schedule an appointment, get in touch with Belle Air Services now.